Friday, September 25, 2020

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Novels by DAC Authors

 
Here are some of the upcoming October 2020 works by formerly featured Debut Author Challenge (DAC) Authors! The year in parentheses is the year the author was featured in the DAC.


Lucy Banks (2017)

The Case of the Twisted Truths
Dr. Ribero's Agency of the Supernatural 4
Amberjack Publishing, October 6, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

Kester and Ribero’s team of inept supernatural investigators are back again. But this time, the stakes have been raised. Hrschni, a powerful daemon, together with the rest of the Thelemites, are hellbent on bringing spirits back to the world of the humans...at any cost. Kester needs to gain control of his unique abilities, while coming to terms with the fact that his mother had more secrets than he realized. He must also decide where his allegiances really lie. As the twisted truths keep coming out, he finds it increasingly hard to know who to trust.






Ausma Zehanat Khan (2017)

The Bladebone
Korasan Archives 4
Harper Voyager, October 6, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 512 pages
A powerful band of women warriors must face off against an oppressive enemy in one final showdown that will determine their survival and the fate of their world in this concluding volume in Ausma Zehanat Khan's powerful fantasy series—an epic of magic, bravery, adventure, and the fight for freedom that lies "somewhere between N. K. Jemisin and George R. R. Martin" (Saladin Ahmed).

Armed with the powerful sorcery of the Bloodprint and supported by the Talisman, the oppressive One-Eyed Preacher is on the verge of conquering Ashfall, the Black Khan’s capital in the west. Yet not all is lost for Arian, Sinnia and the Council of Hira. If these brave female warriors can uncover the secrets of an ancient magic weapon known as the Bladebone, they can defeat the Preacher and crush his cruel regime.

Neither Arian and Sinnia, nor their allies, the Mages of Khorasan, know the Bladebone’s whereabouts, and not all may survive the search to uncover it. Pursued by a nefarious enemy aligned with the Preacher, they become separated, each following a different path. Then, in their darkest hour, unexpected help appears. But is the Khanum of Black Aura a friend or foe? Arian may discover the answer too late.

When the secret of the Bladebone is finally revealed, the knowledge comes at a devastating price for Arian. As the capital falls, only Hira, home of the Companions, stands in the way of the Preacher’s victory. While the Companions rise to defend their Citadel from enemies outside and within, Arian must face off in a cataclysmic battle with the Preacher that pits the powers of the Bloodprint against the Sana Codex.

For those who survive, Khorasan will never be the same.






Yoon Ha Lee (2018)

Phoenix Extravagant
Solaris Books, October 20, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 416 pages

The new blockbuster original fantasy work from Nebula, Hugo and Clarke award nominated author Yoon Ha Lee!  
“An arresting tale of loyalty, identity, and the power of art... Lee’s masterful storytelling is sure to wow.” - Publishers Weekly, starred review 

Gyen Jebi isn’t a fighter or a subversive. They just want to paint. 

One day they’re jobless and desperate; the next, Jebi finds themself recruited by the Ministry of Armor to paint the mystical sigils that animate the occupying government’s automaton soldiers. 

But when Jebi discovers the depths of the Razanei government’s horrifying crimes—and the awful source of the magical pigments they use—they find they can no longer stay out of politics. 

What they can do is steal Arazi, the ministry’s mighty dragon automaton, and find a way to fight… 

"Phoenix Extravagant is a book containing ruminations on imperialism, the function and sanctity of art, acculturation, and the morality of love. It also contains a bloody big and unexpectedly adorable mechanical dragon." - Jonathan L. Howard, author of the Johannes Cabal books 

"The emphasis on art and painting gives the writing a poetic quality, added to by the elements of magic and mythology, which shows the depth of Lee’s research with a deft hand." -- The Nerd Daily 

"An elegant, eloquent novel, tense and full of incident." -- Locus

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Interview with Signe Pike, author of The Lost Queen Trilogy

 
Please welcome Signe Pike to The Qwillery. The Lost Kingdom, the 2nd novel in The Lost Queen Trilogy, was published on September 15th by Atria Books.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
TQWelcome back to The Qwillery. Your new novel, The Forgotten Kingdom (The Lost Queen 2), was published on September 15th. Has your writing process changed (or not) from when you wrote The Lost Queen (2018) to The Forgotten Kingdom?
 
Signe:  Thanks for having me back! With this second book I’ve had the chance to experiment with some new writing elements that I found very exciting – writing from multiple perspectives being one. The Forgotten Kingdom also taught me new lessons about trusting my instincts, and listening to my inner voice that brought some magical results. 
 
 
 
TQ:  In our last interview you stated that the most challenging thing about writing for you is "Drowning out the voice of my inner critic and keeping my mind focused on the task at hand." Have your challenges changed? 
 
Signe:  The challenge with this book was trusting, and time. I had to give enough slack on the rope and hope the story would take me where I wanted to end up. And it did! With this book, I felt much more confident about writing fiction, and I knew and loved my characters so well, the inner critic isn’t quite as loud. 
 
 
 
TQ:  What do you wish that you knew about book publishing when The Lost Queen came out that you know now? 
 
Signe:  Honestly, there’s nothing in my perception of publishing that has changed. It’s a beautiful, resilient creature, book sales are up 12% this year across the industry, even as we’ve experienced such tremendous difficulty as a country. People need stories now more than ever, myself included. They are sacrosanct. 
 
 
 
TQ:  Tell us something about The Forgotten Kingdom that is not in the book description. 
 
Signe:  This book might make you cry. If it doesn’t, you might not be human. 
 
 
 
TQ:  Which character in the The Lost Queen series (so far) surprised you the most? Do you have a favorite character (we won't tell the others)?
 
Signe:  I love all my protagonists, but in The Forgotten Kingdom, I developed a particular fondness for some of the new characters who showed up. Muirenn, Talorcan, and especially Diarmid. I love his ornery sense of humor.
 
 
 
TQ:  Please give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Forgotten Kingdom. 
 
Signe:  “I do not know whether I fear him or am calling him as I stand upon the boulder, high above the iron salt waters, looking out over the winter hills. I stand upon the boulder and wait for Rhydderch and his men. I wait. I watch. And I remember.” I’d been stuck trying to figure out how to begin The Forgotten Kingdom, waiting for Lailoken to come close. When he finally strode onto the page, this was what I heard. I built the book around these words. 
 
 
 
TQ:  Is there anything that you can share about the TV series? 
 
Signe:  Nothing in TV or film is ever certain, but there is such an incredible team behind these books, and so far, things are still in the works. 
 
 
 
TQ:  What's next? 
 
Signe:  I’m looking forward to settling back into my office and diving into the research again as I start thinking about the third book in the trilogy. The research is what gets me excited. I find something that it seems no one else has discovered or written about, and it makes my pulse skip a beat. When I come across something and think, “How does no one know about this?” That usually means it’s an element that will surface in the book. I love piecing historical clues back together. That feels like my purpose. 
 
 
 
TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery. 
 
Signe:  I hope I’ll “see you” again for book three! In the meantime, I’ll be working away…. 
 
 
 
 
 
The Forgotten Kingdom
The Lost Queen 2
Atria Books, September 15, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 496 pages
From the author of The Lost Queen, hailed as “Outlander meets Camelot” (Kirsty Logan, author of Things We Say in the Dark) and “The Mists of Avalon for a new generation” (Linnea Hartsuyker, author of The Golden Wolf), a new novel in which a forgotten queen of sixth century Scotland claims her throne as her family is torn apart and war looms.

AD 573. Imprisoned in her chamber, Languoreth awaits news in torment. Her husband and son have ridden off to wage war against her brother, Lailoken. She doesn’t yet know that her young daughter, Angharad, who was training with Lailoken to become a Wisdom Keeper, has been lost in the chaos. As one of the bloodiest battles of early medieval Scottish history scatters its survivors to the wind, Lailoken and his men must flee to exile in the mountains of the Lowlands, while nine-year-old Angharad must summon all Lailoken has taught her and follow her own destiny through the mysterious, mystical land of the Picts.

In the aftermath of the battle, old political alliances unravel, opening the way for the ambitious adherents of the new religion: Christianity. Lailoken is half-mad with battle sickness, and Languoreth must hide her allegiance to the Old Way to survive her marriage to the next Christian king of Strathclyde. Worst yet, the new King of the Angles is bent on expanding his kingdom at any cost. Now the exiled Lailoken, with the help of a young warrior named Artur, may be the only man who can bring the Christians and the pagans together to defeat the encroaching Angles. But to do so, he must claim the role that will forever transform him. He must become the man known to history as “Myrddin.”

Bitter rivalries are ignited, lost loves are found, new loves are born, and old enemies come face-to-face with their reckoning in this compellingly fresh look at one of the most enduring legends of all time.
 
 
 
 
Previously
 
The Lost Queen
The Lost Queen 1
Atria Books, June 4, 2019
Trade Paperback, 560 pages
Hardcover and eBook, September 4, 2018

Outlander meets Camelot” (Kirsty Logan, author of The Gracekeepers) in the first book of an exciting historical trilogy that reveals the untold story of Languoreth—a powerful and, until now, tragically forgotten queen of sixth-century Scotland—twin sister of the man who inspired the legendary character of Merlin.

Intelligent, passionate, rebellious, and brave, Languoreth is the unforgettable heroine of The Lost Queen, a tale of conflicted loves and survival set against the cinematic backdrop of ancient Scotland, a magical land of myths and superstition inspired by the beauty of the natural world. One of the most powerful early medieval queens in British history, Languoreth ruled at a time of enormous disruption and bloodshed, when the burgeoning forces of Christianity threatened to obliterate the ancient pagan beliefs and change her way of life forever.

Together with her twin brother Lailoken, a warrior and druid known to history as Merlin, Languoreth is catapulted into a world of danger and violence. When a war brings the hero Emrys Pendragon, to their door, Languoreth collides with the handsome warrior Maelgwn. Their passionate connection is forged by enchantment, but Languoreth is promised in marriage to Rhydderch, son of the High King who is sympathetic to the followers of Christianity. As Rhydderch's wife, Languoreth must assume her duty to fight for the preservation of the Old Way, her kingdom, and all she holds dear.

“Moving, thrilling, and ultimately spellbinding” (BookPage), The Lost Queen brings this remarkable woman to life—rescuing her from obscurity, and reaffirming her place at the center of the most enduring legends of all time. “Moving, thrilling, and ultimately spellbinding, The Lost Queen is perfect for readers of historical fiction like The Clan of the Cave Bear and Wolf Hall, and for lovers of fantasy like Outlander and The Mists of Avalon” (BookPage).
 
 
 
 
 
About Signe
 
Photograph by Tiffany Mizzell
 
Signe Pike is the author of The Lost Queen, The Forgotten Kingdom, and the travel memoir Faery Tale, and has researched and written about Celtic history and folklore for more than a decade. Visit her at SignePike.com.
 
 
 
 
 
Twitter @SignePike
 
 
 
Photograph by Tiffany Mizzell

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Interview with Andrea Stewart, author of The Bone Shard Daughter

Please welcome Andrea Stewart to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Bone Shard Daughter was published on September 8, 2020 by Orbit.







TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece you remember writing? 

Andrea:  The first fiction piece I remember writing was in response to a creative writing prompt in fifth grade. The prompt was to choose an item made of clay and to write about it coming to life. I wrote about the statue of a peregrine falcon coming to life and flying me away to a magical land where I got to meet other clay creatures that had come to life. My teacher loved it and encouraged me to continue writing, and that's how I started down this whole road! 
 
 
 
TQ:  Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid? 
 
Andrea:  I'm definitely a plotter. I like to have a road map of where I'm going, and it feels like I get there faster when I have one. I start with a pitch that outlines the main conflict, then I write a couple chapters to get a feel for the world and the voices, then I do a chapter-by-chapter outline. Once I have that nailed down to my satisfaction, I start drafting from beginning to end. That said, things often change a little while I write! 
 
 
 
TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? 
 
Andrea:  my writing. I really want people to feel like they have that sense of place when they're reading. The news, history, my personal experiences—all are things that end up coloring my work. 
 
 
 
TQ:  Describe The Bone Shard Daughter using only 5 words. 
 
Andrea:  Revolution, identity, magic, islands, and keys. 
 
 
 
TQ:  Tell us something about The Bone Shard Daughter that is not found in the book description. 
 
Andrea:  I know this has surprised some people, so even though the description focuses on Lin's point of view, there are actually several point-of-view characters in the book. It follows Lin, Jovis, Ranami and Phalue, and Sand. Each character has their part to play in the overall story. 
 
 
 
TQ:  What inspired you to write The Bone Shard Daughter? What appeals to you about writing Epic Fantasy? 
 
Andrea:  The seed of inspiration started for me at the San Antonio WorldCon, when I went to lunch at the food court with my friends. My friend Marina Lostetter (who has since had a SF trilogy out and has a fantasy trilogy from Tor on the way) nearly choked on a piece of bone in her lunch. It started me thinking about using shards of bone as a source of magic. Of course, the idea evolved and grew a lot from there, and I added a lot of elements I enjoy seeing in books. It stewed in my brain for a while as I was working on other things. Once the ideas felt ready to me, I sat down and wrote the book! 

There's a lot that appeals to me about writing epic fantasy. I love the high stakes of it all—the clash of power and influence, the magic, the world-changing revelations. The scope allows for grand storytelling as well as allowing you to tie events to smaller, more intimate moments. And there's that sense of wonder that always seems to accompany epic fantasy. You can transport a reader to an utterly strange and new landscape, plus give them a sense of sweeping history, all from the comfort of their couch. 
 
 
 
TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The Bone Shard Daughter? 
 
Andrea:  I checked out a lot of books from the library and read a lot of Wikipedia articles. I don't take a lot of notes when I research. I'm generally not trying to capture a particular time period or a particular place, but reading about historical events and specific places does help me pick out threads and patterns of what I want to see in my world. I also like to read travel guides and sometimes to watch some travel videos. The little details are important to me, and just looking at the photos and the things in the background can sometimes provide me with inspiration on what things I should include when writing. 
 
 
 
TQ:  Please tell us about the cover for The Bone Shard Daughter.
 
Andrea:  The art was done by Sasha Vinogradova and the design by Lauren Panepinto. The cover is less a direct representation of a scene in the novel and more representative of the elements in the novel as a whole. I love it so much! It pulls together so many important elements—the city buildings, the waves, the ships, and the key. And if you look closely, you'll notice a little creature in the bow of the key... 
 
 
TQ:  In The Bone Shard Daughter who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why? 
 
Andrea:  I think in some ways Jovis was the easiest to write. He's got my silly sense of humor, and often feels exasperated with himself—something I deeply relate to. He's a fair bit grumpier than I am, but I also found it fun to write in that aspect of his personality. Sand was probably the most difficult to write. She starts, in some ways, much like a blank slate. Her circumstances are the most mysterious of all the characters, and she's figuring out what they mean as the story progresses. It's difficult to write a character like that in an engaging way, I think!
 
 
 
TQ:  Does The Bone Shard Daughter touch on any social issues?
 
Andrea:  I definitely tried to touch on some social issues. Ranami and Phalue's storyline is centered around their differences of privilege—they both love one another but are coming from two very different places in society. If they can't find a way to bridge that gap between them, their relationship falls apart and their whole island suffers for it. Lin is the daughter of the Emperor, trying to reclaim her place as heir. Although she focuses on this, she eventually has to decide if she wants to be the sort of leader her father has been or if she wants to take a different, less oppressive path. And Jovis is on a personal mission, one that ends up clashing with the greater purpose of the brewing revolution. He has to decide how much responsibility he has to others and to society, and whether that takes precedence over his personal needs. 
 
 
 
TQ:  Which question about The Bone Shard Daughter do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it! 
 
Andrea:  “Did you think The Bone Shard Daughter would be published when you were writing it?” 
 
I did not! When it went out on submission, I immediately started working on a new, completely different book so I wouldn't feel as bad if no one wanted to buy it. I'd had two prior books go out on submission to publishers that didn't sell, so the realistic part of me thought I'd just keep on to the next thing—I hadn't the best track record! I did feel like it was the best thing I'd written so far, but I always felt that way. I do try to improve with each book. 
 
 
 
TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Bone Shard Daughter. 
 
Andrea:  I think my favorite is: "I was Lin. I was the Emperor's daughter. And I would show him that even broken daughters could wield power." It just marks a big turning point for her and ties back to the very beginning. 
 
 
 
TQ:  What's next?
 
Andrea:  Next up are the next two books in The Drowning Empire trilogy, probably a sci-fi with time bubbles I've been fiddling with, and more epic fantasy in strange new worlds! I've got so many ideas and so many places I want to show people! 
 
 
 
TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery!
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Bone Shard Daughter
The Drowning Empire 1
Orbit, September 8, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 448 pages

Introducing a major new voice in epic fantasy: in an empire controlled by bone shard magic, Lin, the former heir to the emperor, will fight to reclaim her magic and her place on the throne.

The emperor’s reign has lasted for decades, his mastery of bone shard magic powering the animal-like constructs that maintain law and order. But now his rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands.

Lin is the emperor’s daughter and spends her days trapped in a palace of locked doors and dark secrets. When her father refuses to recognise her as heir to the throne, she vows to prove her worth by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.

Yet such power carries a great cost, and when the revolution reaches the gates of the palace, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her birthright – and save her people.






About Andrea 


Andrea Stewart is the daughter of immigrants, and was raised in a number of places across the United States. Her parents always emphasized science and education, so she spent her childhood immersed in Star Trek and odd-smelling library books. When her (admittedly ambitious) dreams of becoming a dragon slayer didn’t pan out, she instead turned to writing books. She now lives in sunny California, and in addition to writing, can be found herding cats, looking at birds, and falling down research rabbit holes. 






Website ~ Twitter @AndreaGStewart

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The View From Monday ... On Tuesday - September 22, 2020

It's Tuesday! 

There are 3 debuts this week: 

Daughters of the Wild by Natalka Burian (Adult Debut); 

The Peace Machine by Özgür Mumcu (English Debut); 

and 

Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots.
Clicking on a novel's cover will take you to its Amazon page.

From formerly featured DAC Authors: 

The Girl with No Face (The Daoshi Chronicles 2) by M. H. Boroson is out in Mass Market Paperback;

Seventh Perfection by Daniel Polansky; 

and

The Ikessar Falcon (Chronicles of the Bitch Queen 2) by K. S. Villoso.
Clicking on a novel's cover will take you to its Amazon page.






Debut novels are highlighted in blue. Novels, etc. by formerly featured DAC Authors are highlighted in green.

September 22, 2020
TITLEAUTHORSERIES
Dead Man in a Ditch Luke Arnold F/UF - Fetch Phillips Archives 2
Hilldiggers: A Novel of the Polity (ri) Neal Asher SF/SP
Dracula's Child J.S. Barnes H/Occ/Sup/HistM
The Girl with No Face (h2mm) M. H. Boroson UF - The Daoshi Chronicles 2
Daughters of the Wild (D - Adult) Natalka Burian CoA/FL/MR/CW
The Peace Machine (D - English) Özgür Mumcu
Mark David Myers (Tr)
SF/SP/VM/Pol
Sweet Harmony (e) Claire North P/Sus
Seventh Perfection Daniel Polansky F
The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez Rudy Ruiz MR
The Doors of Eden Adrian Tchaikovsky SF/GenEng
And the Last Trump Shall Sound: A Future History of America Harry Turtledove
James Morrow
Cat Rambo
AH/Satire/SF - Anthology
Fauna Christiane Vadnais
Pablo Strauss (Tr)
Dys/SF/AP/PA
Rolling Thunder (e)(ri) John Varley SF/HSF - The Thunder and Lightning 3
The John Varley Reader: Thirty Years of Short Fiction (e)(ri) John Varley SF - Collection
Mammoth (e)(ri) John Varley SF/TT/Sus
Red Lightning (e)(ri) John Varley SF/HSF - The Thunder and Lightning 2
Red Thunder (e)(ri) John Varley SF/HSF - The Thunder and Lightning 1
The Thunder and Lightning Series (e)(ri) John Varley SF/HSF - The Thunder and Lightning
The Ikessar Falcon K. S. Villoso F - Chronicles of the Bitch Queen 2
Hench (D) Natalie Zina Walschots Fiction
The Murderbot Diaries: All Systems Red, Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol, Exit Strategy Martha Wells SF - Murderbot Diaries
The Immortal Words Jeff Wheeler F - Grave Kingdom 3
Shapers of Worlds: Science fiction & fantasy by authors featured on the Aurora Award-winning podcast The Worldshapers (e) Edward Willett (Ed) SF/F - Anthology



September 23, 2020
TITLEAUTHORSERIES
The Cthulhu Stories of Robert E. Howard Robert E. Howard H - Collection
The Perfection of Theresa Watkins: A Tor.com Original (e) Justin C. Key SF
The Chrysalids (e) John Wyndham SF



D - Debut
e - eBook
Ed - Editor
h2mm - Hardcover to Mass Market Paperback
h2tp - Hardcover to Trade Paperback
Ke - Kindle eBook
ri - reissue or reprint
tp2mm - Trade Paperback to Mass Market Paperback
Tr - Translator



AB - Absurdist
AC - Alien Contact
AH - Alternative History
AP - Apocalyptic
CF - Contemporary Fantasy
CoA - Coming of Age
Cr - Crime
CW - Contemporary Women
CyP - CyberPunk
DF - Dark Fantasy
Dys - Dystopian
F - Fantasy
FairyT - Fairy Tales
FL - Family Life
FolkT - Folk Tales
FR - Fantasy Romance
GenEng - Genetic Engineering
GH - Ghost(s)
GothicR - Gothic Romance
H - Horror
HC - History and Criticism
Hist - Historical
HistF - Historical Fantasy
HistM - Historical Mystery
HistR - Historical Romance
HistTh - Historical Thriller
HSF - Hard Science Fiction
HU - Humorous
LC - Literary Criticism
LF - Literary Fiction
LM - Legend and Mythology
M - Mystery
Med - Medical
MR - Magical Realism
MTI - Media Tie-In
Occ - Occult
P - Paranormal
PA - Post Apocalyptic
PCM - Paranormal Cozy Mystery
PNR - Paranormal Romance
Pol - Political
PolTh - Political Thriller
PopCul - Popular Culture
Psy - Psychological
R - Romance
RF - Romantic Fantasy
ScF - Science Fantasy
SE - Space Exploration
SF - Science Fiction
SFR - Science Fiction Romance
SFTh - Science Fiction Thriller
SH - Superheroes
SO - Space Opera
SP - Steampunk
SpecFic - Speculative Fiction
SS - Short Stories
STR - Small Town and Rural
Sup - Supernatural
SupM - Supernatural Mystery
SupTh - Supernatural Thriller
Sus - Suspense
TechTh - Technological Thriller
Th - Thriller
TT - Time Travel
TTR - Time Travel Romance
UF - Urban Fantasy
VM - Visionary and Metaphysical

Note: Not all genres and formats are found in the books, etc. listed above.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Guest Blog by Tom Doyle - The Machine Stops: Avoiding the Singularity in My Science Fiction Novel

Please welcome Tom Doyle to The Qwillery. Tom is the author of the American Craft trilogy. Border Crosser, his most recent novel, will be published on October 1, 2020.






The Machine Stops: Avoiding the Singularity in My Science 
Fiction Novel 
         My new novel, Border Crosser, takes place centuries from now when humanity has spread out among the stars. But even in this distant future of miraculous technologies, the story’s secret agent heroine, Eris, has borderline personality disorder with a severe emotional amnesia component. This means that, though she remembers facts quite clearly, she has difficulty remembering how she felt previously about those facts, and thus can swing wildly from love to hate and back again.
         The persistence of untreated personality disorders isn’t the only incongruous feature of this far future. Humanity has banned human-like AI and has limited life-extension to two centuries. In other words, the progress of posthumanism and the technological singularity has in certain respects halted. 
         To explain why I’ve presented the future this way, I’m going to discuss the ways I and other science fiction authors deal with technological change in the far future. The bottom line is that, in one way or another, we all cheat, at least a little.
         In Border Crosser, the break in our use of posthuman technologies comes when we develop human-like artificial intelligences, setting off a hard singularity scenario. In typical science fiction fashion, the AIs attempt to take over. We prevail, but only by the skin of our teeth. 
         One of the ways the AIs exerted power was through very intimate and thorough psychological control of their human populations, so Eris’s nickname for this past conflict is “the Psych Wars.” When after these Wars humanity decides to ban a whole spectrum of posthuman technologies and psychological treatments, the so-called Psych Laws are born.
         My primary reason for this worldbuilding is that I wanted to tell a story in a space opera setting about borderline personality characters whose conditions remained untreated. But in doing that, I, like many authors before me, was dodging the singularity. 
         Some believe that there’s no choice for SF authors but to dodge it. The Wikipedia definition of the technological singularity is “a hypothetical point in time at which technological growth becomes uncontrollable and irreversible, resulting in unforeseeable changes to human civilization.” It’s the “unforeseeable” part that’s a particular problem. In many descriptions of the singularity, the period after that point of accelerating change is considered unimaginable to humans in the present day in the same way that an australopithecine couldn’t imagine our world. So, by definition, authors are inadequate to the task of writing about it, and many SF authors seem to focus on the near future for that reason. 
         This seems to me a cop out, but let’s say this version of the singularity is correct. Then perhaps the singularity isn’t going to happen? But that leads us to an implicit assumption in the definition above: a deterministic view of technological change. Even though the singularity supposedly marks a point no return, such a deterministic view means that our path toward that point is already inevitable. Any group that doesn’t adopt advanced technologies is put at an economic and military disadvantage to those that do, which eventually becomes a cultural survival disadvantage. Attempts at enforcement of any particular ban consistently break down in the face of these pressures. 
         One response to the apparent inevitability of posthumanism is to simply ignore it, as in the series bible for the original Star Trek:
         “But projecting the advanced capabilities of your starship, wouldn’t man at time have drastically altered such needs as food, physical love, sleep, etc.?
          Probably. But if we did it, it would be at the cost of so dehumanizing the STAR TREK characters that only a small fraction of the television audience would be interested, and the great percentage of viewers might even be repulsed.”
This strategy of ignoring the issue seems to work in a lot of popular entertainment in a way that wouldn’t, for example, in a hard SF short story. 
         But perhaps a deterministic view of technological change misses all the ways that culture both explicitly and unconsciously steers toward certain technologies and away from others. In Seveneves, Neal Stephenson refers to such cultural restraints as amishtics (after the Amish, who’ve decided not to use certain tech). Even minor differences in cultural preferences early could make large differences later.
         Finally, a frequent strategy for far-future writing is to have the singularity/posthuman point reached and go so seriously wrong that technological change is reversed (contrary to the definition of the singularity) and no one is going to let it happen again. The Dune books have this with the Butlerian Jihad. It’s part of the backstory to the alternative technologies in David Louis Edelman’s Jump 225 trilogy. And even Star Trek has a nod to this with its Eugenics Wars. By adopting this strategy as well, I’m in good company. 
         Have I copped out? I’ve grumbled against other authors who’ve refused to imagine the far future because of the extent of change, so perhaps I should explore that horizon in some future book. But, as I said, the story I wanted to tell now was a combination of borderline personality and space opera. And most importantly, like much of SF it also has a lot to say about our present. Eris battles klept-oligarchs, theocrats, experts in genocide, human traffickers, and large-scale psychological manipulators. As much as I would’ve liked to imagine a world without such villains, it’s more important than ever for science fiction to also engage with the world as it is.





Border Crosser
1632, Inc., October 1, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 383 pages

In a galaxy gone insane only a madwoman would fight for freedom.

Eris is a charismatic spy with a violent borderline personality and emotional amnesia--she doesn't remember her loyalties. This allows her to pass from world to world without mental scanners detecting her long-term intentions, making her a "border crosser."

The Asylum cabal has artificially amplified Eris's condition so that she'll cause interstellar chaos for the limited time she survives. When Eris discovers the Asylum's manipulation of her, she sets out to find its hidden leaders and destroy them.

From decadent old Earth to the frontier estates of Mars, Eris hunts her first quarry, the Asylum's architect of genocides. But when her chase leads her out to the stars, she discovers still deadlier dangers from humanity's past and her own. As she fights these galaxy-spanning nightmares, Eris must also struggle to recover her own mind.

As Eris would say, "The only thing necessary for interstellar evil to triumph is for brilliant and sexy killer me ever to stop, darling."





About Tom


Tom Doyle’s latest novel, Border Crosser, tells the far-future adventures of Eris, a psychologically extreme secret agent whose shifting loyalties cause chaos wherever she goes in the galaxy. 

Tom is also the author of the contemporary fantasy American Craft trilogy from Tor Books. In the first novel, American Craftsmen, two modern magician-soldiers fight their way through the legacies of Poe and Hawthorne as they attempt to destroy an undying evil--and not kill each other first. In the sequel, The Left-Hand Way, the craftsmen are hunters and hunted in a global race to save humanity from a new occult threat out of America's past. In the third book, War and Craft, it's Armageddon in Shangri-La, and the end of the world as we know it. 

Tom has survived Harvard, Stanford, and cancer, and he writes in a spooky turret in Washington, DC. He is an award-winning writer of short science fiction and fantasy, and you can find the text and audio of many of his stories on his website. 

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @tmdoyle2

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Interview with Jon Richter

Please welcome Jon Richter to The Qwillery. Auxiliary: London 2039, Jon's most recent novel, was published in May by TCK Publishing.

 






The QwilleryWelcome to The Qwillery. Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Jon Richter: I’ve actually never heard of a ‘hybrid’ before, but I love the idea of such a disturbing experiment, stitching the two approaches together to create some sort of horrifying Frankenstein’s Writer! I am probably closer to a ‘pantser’ these days –my first couple of books were meticulously planned before I started writing, only to find the stories veering wildly off track as soon as I got going! So now I’m happier to go with the flow, scribble down an outline and just dive in to see what emerges…



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing? 

JR:  Sadly I don’t make enough money from writing to rely it on it for my full-time income, so I have to juggle it alongside a busy day job. I was foolish enough to become a qualified accountant in my younger days, so although I’m very lucky to be able to earn good money, it does mean that my working hours can be very long and challenging… and it can sometimes be difficult to switch my brain out of numbers mode and into words!



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing? 

JR:  I love dark fiction of all kinds, and in many forms of media: books, movies, TV shows and video games are all fantastic sources of inspiration. I love stories that are original, unpredictable and leave a lingering chill… recent favourites include the book House Of Leaves by Mark Danielewski (never have I felt so keenly that a book was reading me as much as I was reading it…) and the video game Pathologic 2, which told a haunting tale of a plague outbreak in a fantasy setting. When I spent the first two days saving up fictional currency to buy a gun from a dodgy bloke at the docks, only to find two days later that the town’s economy had collapsed and I was having to trade the gun for a loaf of bread just to avoid starving to death, I knew I was experiencing a masterpiece!



TQDescribe Auxiliary: London 2039 using only 5 words. 
 
JR:  Where our technology might lead…



TQTell us something about Auxiliary: London 2039 that is not found in the book description
 
JR:  This is a great question! Hmmm… okay, the first thing that’s popped into my head is a bit about the game’s omnipresent AI ‘overseer’, TIM (The Imagination Machine). A little like an extremely beefed-up version of Alexa, TIM runs everything: he flies the planes, he reads your children bedtime stories, he makes your coffee, and he’s your constant companion, available to speak to you whenever you like. I wanted to make this character very different from the more typical ‘evil AI’ trope that proliferates science fiction, but also not necessarily motivated by good either. TIM is a tool, nothing more: a neural network that learns from vast quantities of data to simulate consciousness to better serve its human creators. 
 
When researching other fictional AIs, I stumbled across ‘AM’, the Allied Mastercomputer, who appears in Harlan Ellison’s short story I Have No Mouth But I Must Scream (what a title). The short story is certainly worth a read, but is most notable for being the alleged inspiration for Skynet in the Terminator movies – indeed, Ellison settled out of court following the first film’s release, and was given a sum of money as well as an acknowledgement in the credits. 
 
AM is not the sort of AI I wanted to create, but is a fascinating character nonetheless: it despises humanity with a passion, so much so that it wipes out all humans except for five hand-picked victims who it intends to torture for all eternity. The video game version of the story features an incredible, hate-fuelled rant, which I recently learned was actually voiced by none other than Harlan himself!

Check it out here if you want to hear what our AIs might grow to think of us… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EddX9hnhDS4



TQWhat inspired you to write Auxiliary: London 2039? 
 
JR:  I am fascinated by modern technological trends and developments, and the book was really an attempt to project forward into the near future, when things like driverless cars, smarter AIs, cybernetics, augmented reality and rudimentary robots will become much more commonplace.
I have always loved classic murder mysteries and noir detective stories, and when an image popped into my head one day – of a crime scene with a dead body mashed into a wall, a severed cybernetic arm protruding out from its crushed face into the room, while detectives took photographs and pondered what had happened – I couldn’t resist making my first foray into the world of cyberpunk!



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Auxiliary: London 2039?

JR:  As mentioned above, I’m really interested in modern technology, and so researching the book was a labour of love! It gave me a great excuse to read about all manner of emerging innovations, such as the Brain Computer Interfaces being developed by the likes of Neuralink which really could transform our society (imagine being able to talk just by ‘thinking’ to each other?) 
 
One of the most interesting subjects I stumbled upon was the field of synthetic meat. I don’t just mean meat substitutes made from mushroom or soya or whatever – I mean actual, vat-grown protein grown from stem cells that is indistinguishable from the real thing. It looks and tastes like chicken because it is chicken – just chicken that’s been cultivated in a laboratory. This technology already exists, and if its developers can reduce the cost then there’s a very real chance this could completely replace traditionally farmed meat in the coming years… and could also mean that we find ourselves able to grow and eat the meat of more exotic animals, because there would no longer be any need to kill them. 
 
And why stop at panda steaks and polar bear fillets? Soon we might find exclusive restaurants selling meat from our favourite celebrities… Beyonce Burgers, anyone?



TQPlease tell us about the cover for Auxiliary: London 2039. 
 
JR:  To my shame I actually don’t know the name of the artist, but I certainly think TCK Publishing did a fantastic job with the book’s cover. It depicts the afore-mentioned mechanical arm, and the central mystery that drives the book’s plot – and also leaves the reader with no doubt about the type of book they are about to enjoy! Metal prosthetics like this are such an iconic cyberpunk image that it felt like an absolutely perfect piece of cover art.



TQIn Auxiliary: London 2039 who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
 
JR:  The main character, Carl Dremmler, is a bitter and selfish man, but also honourable and good-natured at his heart. In some ways, he is similar to me – struggling at times to exist in modern society, always feeling a little behind the curve, riddled with irrational neuroses and prejudices he is unaware of, trying but not always succeeding to do the right thing – so to write him I really just had to crank up the dial on some of my own flaws. 
 
Conversely, writing TIM was a challenge, as I had to make a huge effort to think in a very different way. TIM is ruthlessly logical, but his actions and the way he communicates are born from a very different type of intellect: an intellect forged not from nurture, but from billions of terabytes of uploaded data. I am particularly proud of the poem that TIM writes during the story, which I hope captures the AI’s motivations and mindset.


TQDoes Auxiliary: London 2039 touch on any social issues? 
 
JR:  I wanted to consider the impact of emerging technology on society in a realistic way. For example, just because new building methods exist doesn’t mean that all existing housing stock will be demolished and replaced with some sort of dystopian metropolis: people are likely to be living in the same existing housing for many decades to come. 
 
However, I do think there will be some fundamental changes, particularly a trend towards greater social isolation (especially following the COVID outbreak). We are already seeing this manifesting in the form of services like UberEats (why go out for food when you can have it brought to your door?), Amazon (why go to the shop when you can order everything you need online?) and the staggering rate of improvement in the levels of immersion offered by video gaming (why interact with friends in person when it’s more interesting to do so via Minecraft, or Fortnite?) 
 
If you couple this with the inevitable decimation of the workforce (automation will, without doubt, reduce the number of jobs available, and the government will need to find new economic systems to cope with a population where the majority, not the minority, are unemployed, rendered obsolete by technology such as driverless cars and sophisticated AIs) then our society will face a very real challenge in providing stimulation and motivation for a population that spends most of its time sitting around indoors.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Auxiliary: London 2039.
 
JR:  Well I’ve already shared the book’s central mystery, so here’s the scene where Dremmler first learns about the crime he’s about to be dispatched to investigate: 
 
‘He nearly decapitates his girlfriend, then calls to hand himself in? And then, what, cuts his own arm off? He sounds like a piece of work.
 
Maggie drew a long pull on the eCig, the swirling vapour almost hiding her face from view. ‘That’s the fun part. He’s saying he didn’t do it. He’s saying it was the arm.’


And then a little snippet of conversation between Dremmler and TIM, where the former is trying to understand the AI’s approach to morality: 
 
‘But how do you decide what’s right and what’s wrong?’
 
‘I don’t. My decisions are based solely on probabilities, statistics, and frequencies. The world has already decided what’s right and wrong; I merely observe, and imitate.’



TQWhat's next? 
 
JR:  Before sitting down to this interview I was working on the first round of edits for a ‘sidequel’ to Auxiliary, exploring how TIM might react to a pandemic similar to the one that’s turned our lives upside down in 2020. It’s a very different sort of novel to its predecessor, and in typical ‘pantser’ style has gone completely off the rails, but I’m hoping to bring it to you all very soon!



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

JR:  It has been my absolute pleasure. Thank you for listening to my sinister ramblings!






Auxiliary: London 2039
TCK Publishing, May 3, 2020
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 223 pages
The silicon revolution left Dremmler behind but a good detective is never obsolete.

London is quiet in 2039—thanks to the machines. People stay indoors, communicating through high-tech glasses and gorging on simulated reality while 3D printers and scuttling robots cater to their every whim. Mammoth corporations wage war for dominance in a world where human augmentation blurs the line between flesh and steel. 

And at the center of it all lurks The Imagination Machine: the hyper-advanced, omnipresent AI that drives our cars, flies our planes, cooks our food, and plans our lives. Servile, patient, tireless … TIM has everything humanity requires. Everything except a soul.

Through this silicon jungle prowls Carl Dremmler, police detective—one of the few professions better suited to meat than machine. His latest case: a grisly murder seemingly perpetrated by the victim’s boyfriend. Dremmler’s boss wants a quick end to the case, but the tech-wary detective can’t help but believe the accused’s bizarre story: that his robotic arm committed the heinous crime, not him. An advanced prosthetic, controlled by a chip in his skull.

A chip controlled by TIM.

Dremmler smells blood: the seeds of a conspiracy that could burn London to ash unless he exposes the truth. His investigation pits him against desperate criminals, scheming businesswomen, deadly automatons—and the nightmares of his own past. And when Dremmler finds himself questioning even TIM’s inscrutable motives, he’s forced to stare into the blank soul of the machine.

Auxiliary is gripping, unpredictable, and bleakly atmospheric—ideal for fans of cyberpunk classics like the Blade Runner movies, Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon, William Gibson’s Neuromancer, and the Netflix original series Black Mirror





About Jon
 

Jon Richter writes dark fiction, including his three gripping crime thrillers, Deadly Burial, Never Rest and Rabbit Hole, his recent cyberpunk noir thriller Auxiliary: London 2039, as well as two collections of short horror fiction, volumes one and two of Jon Richter's Disturbing Works
 
Jon lives in London and is a self-confessed nerd who loves books, films and video games – basically any way to tell a great story. He writes whenever he can, and hopes to bring you more macabre tales in the very near future. He also co-hosts the Dark Natter podcast, a fortnightly dissection of the greatest works of dark fiction, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcast fix. 
 
If you want to chat to him about any of this, you can find him on Twitter @RichterWrites or Instagram @jonrichterwrites. His website haunts the internet at www.jon-richter.com, and you can find his books available on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/2OXXRVP.